Pros / There are a ton of current cable TV shows to watch.
Cons / You have to pay more for limited commercials.
Verdict / Hulu is a less expensive way to stay up to date with most of the TV shows running on cable TV right now.
Editor’s Note: Some changes have occurred with Hulu since our last round of testing, including the addition of a live TV streaming option. We will re-evaluate and test this streaming service again soon.
This streaming service, which back in the stone age used to be free, has two subscription packages to choose from. The more expensive plan is still cheaper than HBO NOW and is advertised as the “commercial free” option, though if you read the fine print you’ll see some titles still have advertisements at the beginning and end.
Signing up requires your gender and birthday, which the site says is used to personalize your content. Once you’re signed up you can purchase add-ons to get content from Showtime, Cinemax or HBO. At the time of our testing all of these add-ons cost at least $9 per month. Like with Netflix, you select a few genres you enjoy so Hulu can personalize the recommendations it gives you. You can also add profiles for your family members so the viewing habits of others won’t impact your account. Even so, one of our reviewers who has been a longtime user of Hulu said she felt all recommendations were based on the popularity of a show, not necessarily whether it fell in line with her viewing habits.
At the time of our review Hulu was in the process of a website redesign which some of our reviewers loved and others didn’t. The new layout has a lot more white space with content displayed on tiles that enlarge when you hover your cursor over them. All of our testers said this site played content smoothly except for one, who had to totally reopen their browser to get a title to play if the computer had gone to sleep for any period of time. As with Amazon Prime Video, when you watch something on your computer and hover your mouse over the window, the popup of control buttons and information is so large it obstructs your view. Some users might find it easier to see the pause button, but really we don’t see a reason for it to be that large. Another problem we encountered was selecting particular TV show episodes for viewing, particularly in the new website format. You have to click on the name of the TV show to access the popup where you can select different episodes. It isn’t intuitive. All of that being said, Hulu got a B+ for ease of use from our testers.
When it comes to TV show selection though, Hulu has everything. You can watch the most recent episodes from networks like FOX, ABC, AMC, Disney and CBS. This includes everything from entertaining comedies to network news commentary. Hulu also produces original content, like the extremely popular and critically acclaimed “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Live TV was available during testing, but only as a free trial for eligible existing subscribers. Three plans are available for this feature. You can watch your favorite shows on the desktop version or an app so you’ll never have to be behind with your favorite show. If you have youngsters using your account, you can also set up parental controls.
With Hulu you get a free one-month trial when you sign up, and both the basic and premium options are pretty affordable. During our testing you could get a deal for signing up for Hulu and Spotify Premium together. This service is a good choice, especially if you’re looking for the biggest selection of TV shows.